Burns recall follows batting breakthrough

Joe Burns said his pink-ball century in the Sheffield Shield gave him useful experience, though it will be a lot different to the red ball that he faces on his Test return © Getty Images

At a time when Australia’s batsmen are mired in a damaging pattern of failures, Joe Burns has returned to the Test fold with confidence derived from breaking out of his own.

Until the first round of this season’s Sheffield Shield, Burns had an almost comically poor record in matches involving a pink ball. The inaugural day-night Test at the Adelaide Oval offered up scores of 14 and 11. That followed a similarly underwhelming run in floodlit Shield matches, despite Burns making extra efforts to learn – he did his own extra training against a pink ball away from the Australian side.

After two poor Test matches in Sri Lanka against the spinning red ball, Burns was cast out of the national side. But, when his stocks seemed lowest, Burns was able to find a way against the pink ball. His well-struck hundred for Queensland at the Gabba against New South Wales, against an attack featuring Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood no less, means Burns will bring a much more positive vibe to Hobart than he might otherwise have.

“I guess it was a nice experience to make runs against the pink ball, in particular because there’s a [day-night] Test match in Brisbane,” Burns said. “Obviously, that’s a long way down the track from here, but I think as players, the more you play against the pink ball and the more confident you get against it as a batter, you certainly do feel more comfortable going into each pink-ball game.

“With the pink ball, the game’s played a little bit differently to the red ball, so just those experiences as a batter – where you can look to make your runs, where you’ve got to be a bit more cautions and the way the game ebbs and flows. In Brisbane anyway, it’s certainly a lot different from red to pink ball.”

The duel with the Blues was willing and vocal, placing Burns in a decent frame of mind to face South Africa at Bellerive Oval from Saturday as the replacement opener for Shaun Marsh. “There was a bit of banter there, which is fantastic. You want to see guys playing the same way for their stats as you do for your country,” he said. “And I guess that’s a strength of the Shield competition, so it was a very enjoyable challenge.

“When those boys are up and firing, it certainly spurs you on to bigger heights, and it was very satisfying to make some runs in that game. One of the things that you look back on and feel confident in, and know that you’re hitting the ball really well against good opposition, and then, hopefully, carry that into a Test match against South Africa. But in saying that, it’s a new set of bowlers, new conditions, and you still have to prepare as best you can for this Test match.”

Burns said he learned a lot from the experience of losing his place in Sri Lanka, a perspective that will also be relevant entering a team that has just lost the first Test of a home summer for the first time in 28 years. “Sri Lanka was my first Test loss and first series loss, so it was a tough tour,” Burns said. “It was tough because I wasn’t making runs personally as well. But I guess that’s part of the challenge of cricket, part of the challenge of playing for Australia.

“You always want to be making runs. You always want to be winning cricket games for your country, so you do everything you can to turn it around and try and get back to winning those matches. I think the experience within the group, we’ve had a lot of a success as a team and as individuals that there’s no doubt we can turn it around.

“We just have to prepare well, go out and take up the challenge in that second Test match. We’ve got no doubt we can certainly turn it around. Obviously, a lot of hard work will go into it, but, certainly, very confident going into the rest of the series.”

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

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